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Facility Solutions: Cultural Evolution in the Branches


March 2014 – Vol: 37 No. 3
by Paul Seibert, CMC

Make sure technology investments are bolstered by developing productivity in your people

March 18, 2014

Credit Union Management magazine’s Web-only “Facility Solutions” runs the third Tuesday of the month.

BlueShore Financial’s “financial spa facility"
BlueShore Financial’s “financial spa facility"

Because branches are so expensive to develop and operate, credit unions are rethinking the branch business model to drive efficiency and cost reduction. Many institutions look to boost their return on investment by replacing tellers with universal agents and/or remote teller technology. Unfortunately, these efforts don’t always produce any increase in those branches’ productivity or share of wallet.

What’s wrong with our concept if we are only getting half the benefits?

Twenty years EHS Design put forth our first branch concepts integrating new technologies and staffing models and they initially failed. Ten years ago we designed a new “financial spa” for $1.3 billion BlueShore Financial (formerly  North Shore CU), N. Vancouver, British Columbia, only to see it fall a bit flat at first, too. But, in both cases, the credit unions enjoyed great success from the new concepts after time. What happened? On analysis, the problem lay not with the concept or the physical space, but with ineffective branch leadership and resulting staff actions that did not support the new business model or branded member experience.

The initial failures were caused by lack of staff integration and commitment to evolution. One branch manager said, “Over the past 15 years I have been presented with new HR ideas. They always change and there is no monitoring or reward. We feel this is just another exercise that will pass.” Obviously, this was the wrong branch manager to drive success in a new business model.

BlueShore Financial replaced managers with “coaches,” who started to motivate staff with their own actions, commitment to change, and constant feedback. The CU studied the problem, developed powerful cultural evolution programs, assigned the right staff, and closely monitored performance. The branch then started to grow deposits at the rate of $1 million per month, and continues to grow at this rate today.

BlueShore Financial has applied the financial spa concept to all its branches and has grown from $650 million to $3.2 billion in nine years with the addition of just one branch and a 5 percent increase in membership. This is a great example of how a re-engineered member experience can help deliver a successful share-of-wallet strategy driven by the right staff in the right roles. They perfected the new branch model by equally pursuing excellence in both the physical environment and the staff cultural evolution. You can, too.

Paul Seibert, CMC, is VP/financial design at CUES Supplier member EHS Design, Seattle.

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